1. Hi Kylar! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a leader in the movement for justice for transgender people?
That’s a great question! It’s one that I don’t think about often. I’ve always been community conscious, being raised Black American. I was of the first generation in my immediate family to graduate high school and college. My parents were children of slaves which means I was raised in a time where things where still separate but not equal for Blacks. Fast forward, working in corporate America, I was afraid to be me. Then I came out and was constructively discharged. I felt betrayed when I found there were no legal protections for me. This propelled me to want to make sure that there were laws that protected me and others. I couldn’t bare the thought of anyone having to endure what I had endured.
I immediately became active in my local community, state and then nationally. I engaged any way that I could. Some would call it a “jack of all trades and a master of none.” I just felt it was important to show up and be active. (see full bio here)
2. What would you say are some of the most pressing needs of transgender people of color broadly and specifically for African-American transgender people?
Safety is most pressing. We are targets while walking down the street, in employment, while shopping and any other place you can think about. We suffer multiple oppressions as do all people of color. Some of us have disabilities and other parts of our identities that add to this. People seen as different, lesser or weaker in society are taken advantage of because others just don’t see us as people. They see us as something other than human. We need access to homes, shelters, hospitals and to not be targets of law enforcement or others in the community. Humans should not feel or be treated as prey.
Secondly, employment. This makes us even more vulnerable. Statistics show that African-Americans suffer from unemployment at almost twice the rate as whites. An article in May 2011 showed the unemployment rate for African Americans was at 15.8 and whites was 7.7. The report Injustice at Every Turn shows that 34% of African American transgender people make less than $10,000 per year. Couple these factors with a national economic decline in which companies don’t hire or get rid of people that don’t conform to their rigid stereotypes. This is a sad state of affairs for transgender people of any color.
I want to make it clear, however, that the work I’m doing is focused on all trans and gender nonconforming people of color. In the grand scheme of things, we are such a small number. There is power in numbers. Further, we have overlapping common issues. We are discriminated against based on our skin color or heritage and our gender identity or presentation. Most of us feel isolated, that we are invisible and that no one is advocating for our needs in the United States. While we are U.S. focused; I have found these themes are true in other places around the world.
3. If there was one national law you could pass right now, what would it be?
It would be the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). If people can have access to employment, they can afford to take care of themselves. In a capitalistic society, the only means to survival is employment.
4. Do you have any recommended resources for people who want to be allies to transgender people of color?
I think first and foremost everyone should do their own educational process. Don’t expect people of color or trans and gender non-conforming people to do your homework for you. Educate yourself. The web provides a way to do the research.
Secondly, there are many local, state and now national organizations that do the work. You will have to access them via the web. We plan to have a resource list on our website soon at www.transpoc.org. We are busy collecting those resources because while they have been growing. There has been no national collection of this information.
5. What do you find inspiring or hopeful about today’s transgender community?
I see a multitude of leaders. I find it also inspiring that more people are willing to be out and visible. I think it’s important because once people get to know us all those biases usually go away. We start to erode the barriers and boundaries. I’m not saying it’s easy but it is effective.
When we command respect, we get respect!
6. What does Black History Month mean to you? Do you have any favorite leaders or role models you aspire emulate?
I think Black History Month is important to showcase all that Black Americans have contributed to this country which educates the broader community. When I was in school and studied history. We never learned of any contributions of Black Americans. Our history had been whited out. Secondly, it helps educate and self empower the Black community at large. Finally, I think it helps to erode barriers whether present or in the future.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of Transgender Law Center’s blog?
I appreciate the work of the Transgender Law Center and its support in this national effort. It’s important to build bridges in this community and work to be inclusive of all. We all must remodel this in the how we treat each other and in the work we do.
BIOGRAPHY KYLAR W. BROADUS
Kylar W. Broadus is a professor, attorney, activist and public speaker from Missouri. He is an associate professor of business law at Lincoln University of Missouri, a historically black college where he previously served as chair of the business department. Kylar has maintained a general practice of law in Columbia, Missouri since 1997. In 2011, Kylar was awarded the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Sue J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement and the Pioneer Award at the Transfaith of Color Conference presented by the Freedom Center of Social Justice. He was featured in BlackEnterprise.com and previously in Diversity, Inc. In 2010, Kylar founded Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC), the only national civil rights organization dedicated to the needs of Trans People of Color.
In 2010, Kylar was appointed as a Division Director of the Section on Individual Rights and responsibilities an American Bar Association Committee and Co-Chair for the Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. He has spoken at numerous law schools throughout the country including most recently the University of Mississippi, Washington University, St. Louis University, Tulane, Harvard, Temple, University of Missouri-Columbia, and Georgetown as well as numerous colleges and conferences. In addition, he authored the essay “The Evolution of Employment Discrimination Protections for Transgender People”, published in “Transgender Rights”, the first of its kind by Currah, Juang, Minter 2006. He is published in the Temple Law Journal and numerous other publications. He is currently in the film “Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen.”
He currently serves on the board of the National Black Justice Coalition and was board chair from 2007 to 2010. He has served on the board of directors of the National Stonewall Democrats from 1998 until 2002, and served as the interim secretary from January to May 2001. He served three terms on the City of Columbia’s Human Rights Commission and two terms on the board of the statewide GLBT advocacy group, PROMO: For the Personal Rights of Missourians with the last year being as Vice-President. Broadus is a founding board member of a national think tank, The Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
In August 2005, Broadus along with two other panelists were the first to present information before the American Bar Association regarding Transgender clients. In 2004, he spoke at the Regional Affirmative Action Conference on Transgender Issues and Affirmative Action.
In January of 2003, Broadus was called before the American Association of Law Schools on transgender issues. Kylar speaks and lobbies on the national, state and local levels in the areas of transgender and sexual orientation law and advocacy. He has also been featured on local and national television and radio and offers diversity and leadership trainings throughout the United States to schools, colleges, employers, government agencies and businesses.